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By Teresa Bigham/The Hesperian-Beacon—
“Moving to Tulia was the best thing I ever did. That’s where I met the love of my life,” said Brown. “Her name was Wilma Holcomb and she was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. She was working for dentist just around the corner from the dry cleaners. I would see her walking to work and I just knew I had to meet her, so I introduced myself to her and asked her out on a date.”
The popular thing to do at that time was roller-skating in downtown Tulia. There was a huge tent set-up and we’d skate for hours. “I was a pretty good skater, but Wilma was even better. Those were the good ol days. Wilma was so smart, and funny. I just loved everything about her,” said Brown.
One of my favorite memories of Wilma is when I got off from work and walk out to my car, she would be sitting in there waiting for me,” said Brown. “A few months of dating I popped the question and she said yes.”
We didn’t have much money for a wedding so we decided that we would have a very simple ceremony. “We drove to Plainview to a Methodist Preacher’s house on a Sunday, April 12, 1942 and we got married on his front porch. “I was just 21 years old,” said Brown. “After we got married, we drove back to Tulia to tell Wilma’s parents what we had done. I was so scared to tell them. Her daddy was a big man and she was his baby girl. We gather up the courage and told them. I remember her daddy crying like a baby.”
The couple barely had time to settle into married life when he was drafted into the Air Force on Oct. 7, 1942. He took six weeks of basic training at Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls and went on to Chanute Airfield in Illinois for fourteen weeks of packer training. His unit was assigned overseas training in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Brown recalled rigid combat training, we marched up and down the boardwalk and our instructor made us sing before turning in for the night. One night we balked at the signing, and he marched us until we started singing.”
His unit’s next stop was New Orleans where his unit was shipped out to Puerto Rico for duty. “What I remember most about being there was arriving and there being so many parachutes that had been left folded to long. They were molded, we had to dry them all out and start all over.
“It was during that time that my daughter, Ann was born. She was born 10 months after her mother and I married,” said Brown. “I wanted to get home and see my family, but that wasn’t in the cards. I didn’t get a pass to leave until Ann was just about a year old.”
After a short home visit Brown was stationed in Hawaii for a very short time. While he was there, he oversaw the postal exchange.
From there the 311th Troop Carrier Squadron was transferred to Okinawa. While out on the water in the Pacific, the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The war was wrapping up when Brown first put his feet on Japanese soil.
Once the war ended and our troops were waiting to get their orders to go home, Brown was given two tents to set up on base. One tent was a postal exchange center and the other was a smaller tent that he used as a tailor shop.
He was given a sewing machine and he put is knowledge that he learned while working at the dry cleaners to use. Brown taught a young man for Missouri to sew. The two of the would hem up pants and jacket, repair zippers and sewed on patches.
“I used condemned parachutes to make tassels an I would sale them for $5 each. The men were happy to buy them, just to have something to send home for their wives at Christmas time,” Brown said. “So, I kind of had a usually stay in the Military. It wasn’t meant for me to see the front lines of the war.”
Once it was time for the everyone to start to return home each soldier was given a number, the number represent the order these troops would go home. Brown had his number and the plane was loading. He was finally coming home to his family. Just 30 minutes before the plane took off Brown was taken off the plane. There was someone else who had a pressing matter that required him to get home.
That very plane went down just off the island of Iwo Jima. Everyone on that plain lost their lives. “It was an awful day,” said Brown “I thank the Lord every day that I made it back home to my family.”
(Editor’s note: Part 2 of 4-part series)